Growing Global Market of Second-hand Shoes
According to a global report by Statista, the global market value of second-hand clothes, including shoes is projected to reach $218 billion in 2026, from its current $119 billion market value in 2022. The massive growth of the second-hand shoe industry is attributed to younger customers looking for cheaper and more eco-friendly ways to buy clothes.
The low prices of used shoes enable buyers to access clothes that would otherwise be expensive easily. This ease of access has led to a boom in the second-hand clothing market. The expansion of the billion-dollar used apparel market is driven by wholesalers, retailers, and online stores for second-hand shoes.
Wholesalers source, sort, and process used shoes for supply in large amounts. From a bale clothes factory, they sort used shoes into different categories, including A-grade, B-grade, and other grades for export or local delivery.
They are major industry drivers as they are responsible for providing products for retailers and many online stores. Due to extensive sourcing abilities from widespread, large amounts of collection points, wholesalers have a wide variety of second-hand shoes in their inventory and rarely run out of stock.
By supplying quality and sustainable products to many countries, they add to the growing global market of used clothes.
Used Shoes Retailers/Thrift Stores
Thrift stores, also known as op-shops or charity shops, sell donated second-hand goods for many reasons, including fundraising for charity organizations and profit.
Although some thrift stores are often run by a charity and are non-profit, some other thrift stores purchase used shoes in bulk from wholesalers or larger retailers and sell them for profit. These types of retailers are most common in Europe and Africa.
Thrift shopping is popular as an entertaining way to buy clothes and shoes, as buyers often sift through a variety of options before making the perfect pick. Many consumers admit that the excitement of thrift shopping propels them to make more purchases in the future. Consignment and Buy-Sell-Trade shops have a more specialized collection and are better for consumers with a specific list than regular thrift shops.
While online stores and resale platforms have recently become popular, buying and selling from thrift shops is still the most popular way for used shoe trading.
According to data collated by a US-based second-hand clothing online store, second-hand fashion is growing faster than the fast fashion industry as consumers turn more to the resale market. This is partly due to the introduction of more easy-to-use resale sites, which makes it appealing and stress-free for consumers to buy and sell used shoes.
Buying second-hand shoes bales through smartphone applications and other online platforms are a popular way for Gen Z and millennials to shop, as it offers convenience and allows for wider access to used products.
Importance of Second-hand Shoes for Consumers
Between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production doubled from 50 billion tonnes to 100 billion tonnes, resulting in huge amounts of waste, with most of these clothes ending up in landfills or incinerators. Purchasing used shoes is important for the planet’s survival because of their environmental advantages.
Many consumers have become aware of the impact of used shoes on everyday life and demand that clothing companies expand their commitment to sustainability by reducing the number of shoes produced and giving more attention to the environment. Below are some reasons why more people are buying second-hand clothing.
The fashion industry is a major contributor to the world’s carbon emissions, contributing about 10% of the world’s total carbon emission, making this industry more dangerous than the air and shipping transportation sectors combined. While fast fashion often has a speedy turnover, these shoes are made with cheap and environmentally destructive materials, which is why they are unsustainable.
Second-hand apparels provide a solution to the current sustainability crisis. These items require no energy for production compared to fast fashion produced from scratch. Used shoes help to slow down the fast fashion cycle and aid in reducing their social and environmental effects.
In addition, used clothing is cheaper and very accessible, and when shopping from a used clothing factory-Indetexx, you have access to a wide variety of options.
- Reduces Waste
The fashion industry loses over $500 billion annually from unrecycled clothing materials. With its contribution to carbon emissions and water pollution around the globe, the textile industry is responsible for a massive amount of waste in the world. Buying second-hand shoes mean consumers can push back against this system of waste.
Buying used shoes instead of new ones is an environmental win for consumers as top-quality used products retain their value over time.
- Shoes Circulation
Consumers now appreciate the value of used shoes, realizing they can buy used clothing of equal or better quality than new ones. It’s becoming increasingly easy to find name brands and designer shoes at a fraction of what they would cost as new. This is an important step for society, whose current attitude of following fast fashion trends is a recipe for an unnecessary amount of shoes in circulation.
Buying second-hand footwear and reselling them, also known as fashion flipping, is popular among the younger generation and has helped decrease the number of shoes being churned out and circulated while propelling the used clothing industry. Fashion flipping has more opportunities now because of the increased demand for used apparel and new online resale platforms.
The Increase In Demand for Used Shoes – Retail and Consumer Behavior
Used shoe shopping has been around for a while now. However, with the emergence of new wholesalers, retailers, and digital platforms, its opportunity and potential have increased significantly in recent years.
Shopping for second-hand branded shoes was formerly seen as a stressful and unreliable process, but the approach towards this industry has changed a lot. People do not have to sift through a lot of used products to find beautiful clothes that are in great condition and comfortable to wear. This increase in demand for used products and the boom of the pre-owned clothes industry is influenced by a number of factors. Here are some of them.
Change in Consumer behaviour
Consumers are now more interested in buying second-hand shoes than those marketed as sustainable, which reflects the growing distrust of companies’ efforts to link consumerism to sustainability.
Consumers have mixed feelings towards companies that portray their products as more sustainable than second-hand items. An interesting reason for consumers’ love for pre-owned shoes is the experience of second-hand shopping, which usually has an exciting backstory.
More importantly, consumers are more inclined to give away or sell their shoes. Gen Z’s and millennials especially find it necessary to consider the resale value of items before purchasing them.
A major situation that has impacted the way consumers see second-hand items is the COVID-19 pandemic. During the stay-at-home period, consumers were left to buy used products as manufacturing companies couldn’t work.
Like many other industries, the fashion industry depends strongly on how the broader economy is doing. The purchase of used clothing, including shoes, depends on the economy even more. It is recorded that during economic recessions, when people have less money, they spend less on new products.
The resale market is recession-proof, and when finances are low, the supply of used items increases. With the rate of recession in the last two decades and the effect of the global pandemic, it’s no surprise that many people’s finances have been declining.
In these times, individuals want to save more money, and the appeal of used shoes (cheap, high-quality, and in great wearing condition) is becoming larger. Even as the effect of the pandemic is waning and the demand for new products is rising, the demand for second-hand shoes is also rising simultaneously on resale platforms and thrift shops.
Changes in Shoe Collection
Second-hand shoes are taking a larger space in the clothing collection of the average consumer. Used clothing is expected to increase to almost 20% of the US clothing market, however, some other influences and trends are changing how people think of sourcing them.
Globaldata predicts that more people will source their clothing from renting and subscription services, and more consumers will turn away from buying shoes at retail stores such as Target and Walmart. This study by Globaldata also estimates that the direct-to-consumer sector will only increase slightly in the next decade.
While only a quarter of consumers want to increase their spending in fast fashion in the next few years, over half of young consumers will spend more on used clothing in the next half-decade. And as younger consumers are the driving force of fast fashion, this will be a significant change in the fashion industry.
Changing Attitude Towards Used Clothing In Some Societies
Many societies and markets worldwide are receptive to used clothes and shoes buying, wearing, and selling. China is one of the leading producers and consumers of clothing, which is why the attitude of Chinese consumers towards used shoes may be surprising.
The resistance of Chinese consumers to used clothing can be attributed to their love for new apparels, as well as different superstitions about wearing items that may have belonged to the dead. There is also the concern about hygiene, with COVID-19 just behind them, and the authenticity of second-hand products.
But in the Western part of the world, young consumers are pushing the interest in used clothing by kick-starting small-scale fashion resale platforms. While buying and selling pre-owned attires may still need some work and lots of effort in China, there’s growing interest in the renting and clothing subscription sector. Chinese consumers are also more interested in vintage products.
Adoption of Used Shoe Markets By Popular Clothing Retailers
Popular clothing brands with a modern view are more likely to profit from the changing attitude of consumers towards clothing. Brands with a more traditional outlook will most likely lose out as their share in the consumer’s clothing collection is set to decrease in time.
Interestingly, more than half of retail clothing brands have adopted the sale of used shoes, and the majority of the other brands are open to the idea of resale. In many cases where brands adopt used shoes, the retail brands partner with resale businesses to sell and encourage consumers to donate. Some brands in this partnership include M&S, Gucci, and Alexander McQueen.
This partnership helps to legitimize the resale business and enable the brands to create and amplify a reputation for selling products that last long and have great resale value. It is obvious that people now want second-hand shoes, and the clothing industry will have to move in that direction.
Why More Companies Are Engaging In Resale Business
In 2019, the used shoes market expanded 25 times faster than traditional fashion retail. The big fashion brands are aware of this growth and naturally want to be a part of it.
By creating an authentic business model around second-hand shoes trading, these brands can supply value to their customers cheaply while making conscious efforts to look after the environment. Here are some reasons why more companies and brands have begun engaging in the resale business.
- To move in the direction of changing customer behaviour.
- Increased attention to the effects of production on the environment.
- To explore ways to develop solid customer-brand relationships.
- Motivation to create products with better quality.
- Pre-empting regulations.
Mergers and Acquisitions between Retail Brands and Resale Businesses
Due to the booming secondary market sales, new funds are pouring into the market either through investment in new resale platforms or expansion of existing resale businesses to allow for more supply capacity as well as gain more international presence.
As the market is becoming increasingly crowded, mergers are coming into effect, with existing fashion corporations collaborating with resale players to grab a larger share of the second-hand shoes market.
Some fashion players may not have the resources to handle their own resale operations and partnering with a used clothes business becomes a beneficial solution for the two parties. In this business model, the resale platform takes care of logistics, payment, and product authentication (performing quality inspections), while profiting from the increased traffic, credibility, and promotion from its brand partner.
The big fashion players gain from reselling their products, boosting awareness, and acquiring new customers without putting much effort into running the operation. They can enjoy increased customer loyalty by sourcing products from consumers and swapping them for store credit.
The Future of Second-hand Clothing
According to an estimation by The Harris Poll, second-hand clothing has the potential to become a regular buying option for consumers in the US. 84% of the US adults agree that the resale market is on the rise and 62% think that vintage clothes are a hot trend.
While used clothing retailers are currently not as popular as mass market stores, the alternative of used clothing is increasingly gaining traction among consumers. The outsized influence fast-fashion and big box retailers have over the clothing industry is slowly declining.
Although some fashion and clothing experts dismiss the growth of the second-hand clothing industry, there are many countries where this industry thrives and is an established concept in society. Because preconceived ideas about wearing worn clothes are changing and the growing middle-income class has started accepting buying and selling of used clothes, the expansion of this industry is occurring at a fast pace, and its future is promising.
Active Markets for Used Shoes
Following the economic slowdown in many countries of Europe and Africa in the past decade, second-hand shoes have become prominent in these regions. There is a misconception that only low-income earners in these regions shop for used items. However, this is untrue, as consumers of these products are of different classes and statuses.
Buying and selling second-hand clothing is at its peak in Bulgaria, and many of the country’s home-based used shoe companies have expanded their businesses overseas. Most of its imports come from Canada, the USA, Denmark, and Switzerland. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also influenced the used apparel market in Bulgaria.
The used clothing market in Hungary was valued at $56 million in 2014, and it has seen a steady rise since then. With the enormous amounts of second-hand clothes being imported from Britain and other countries into Hungary each year, Hungarian preloved clothes companies have built and sustained a thriving industry in their country.
Poland’s market has seen tremendous growth as almost half of the country prefers buying from retail houses for used clothes. Companies in Poland import used clothes from Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. The market in Croatia is also booming.
The used shoe trade in Africa involves diverse options, including everyday and high-end footwear. The higher-income earners mainly purchase the latter with exquisite taste but not enough money to purchase new ones. According to a Lifestyle Survey by Euromonitor, used clothing are most popular in Nigeria, with over 9% of the population trading these items once a week.
While the market in South Africa is more formalised, with a wide variety of options for second-hand clothing. Other African countries have access to a limited variety due to a lack of modern retail. In many African countries, economic recessions have increased the appeal of used products, widening the consumer base to include all levels of earners.
The second-hand clothing market in Africa offers many employment opportunities and allows people easy access to the clothing industry. Many fashion trends have also been motivated by the used show trade in this part of the world.
The Challenge of Used Shoes in Some Countries
Second-hand shoes are more valued in some countries than others. The Philippines and India are two countries where the import of used attire is banned because of the adverse effects of these products on the nation’s clothing and textile industry.
In addition, many people agree that the importation of used clothing hampers the growth of local apparel businesses. This effect is most evident in Africa, where anyone can buy or sell second-hand items with little capital, increasing the load on Africa’s fragile domestic industry.
Europe’s challenge results from the economic woes of many countries on the continent. This means that lesser-quality used shoes are now donated or recycled.
Used clothing exported from rich countries is no longer as high-quality as they were. This has contributed to the challenges of preloved clothing retailers.
In some parts of the world, the main challenge of used clothes retailers is people’s ambivalent attitude toward the products. In a poll by The Harris Poll, 33% of consumers who have not purchased second-hand clothing say they do not feel like it. 19% of the same group opine that it is too much work to search for the clothes and another 14% say it is less stressful to purchase new ones.
Used products already control up to 5% of overall apparel, including clothes, footwear, bags, and other used accessories, and it could grow to have more control in the clothing industry (up to 40%) depending on economic conditions, consumer behaviour, conventional retail brands, and several other factors.
Even though people worry about the effects of cheap second-hand clothing on the local textile industry, used shoes are still appealing to buyers that find them a better option financially and for sustainability purposes. While this market continues to attract controversy in emerging economies and the competitive fashion industry, it continues to thrive around the world.